Facts About Graceland That The Public Doesn't Know

From Liverpool's Cavern Club and Prince's Paisley Park to Sunset Strip's Whisky a Go-Go and New York City's Electric Lady Studios, history is littered with buildings that embody all that's larger than life in music and song. Yet one slice of architecture towers above all the rest to secure an unequaled spot in the mythology of rock n' roll, and that's Graceland! More than just where Elvis Presley lived for 20 years, the world-famous mansion in Memphis, Tennessee, serves as a pilgrimage for anyone who has ever fallen under the spell of a rhythm, a roll, and a voice and attitude that changed the course of history.

Visited by princes, presidents, athletes, actors, fellow musicians, and millions of Elvis fans the world over, Graceland is more than just a building. It is the spirit of "The King" writ large in bricks, mortar, and questionable decor. Paul Simon visited in the 1980s and later wrote a song about it. Simon explained that upon viewing the inscription on Presley's grave, which reads, "Elvis Presley whose music touched millions of people all around the world," he began to weep, and the song began to write itself (via Far Out Magazine). As anyone who's ever been will testify, there's something special about Graceland. Yet there are a few things you will not find on the official tour. So let's put on our "Blue Suede Shoes," check out of the "Heartbreak Hotel," and do some digging.

Graceland's original owner was a doctor

Graceland will forever be synonymous with Elvis Presley, but the old house had a past and a history before a young man with a quiff and a sneer walked through the door and claimed it as his own. According to its official website, Elvis' future home was built on a 500-acre farm that once belonged to the Toof family before the Civil War. S.C. Toof was a Tennessee businessman who owned a printing company, established in 1864 (via Elvis.com). The farm remained largely undeveloped until S.C. Toof's granddaughter Ruth Brown Moore and her husband, Dr. Thomas Moore, decided in 1939 to build the mansion that would become world-famous. The couple divorced in 1952, and Mrs. Moore gave a local church group use of the property that had once rung with the music of her daughter, Ruth Marie, who was a Memphis Symphony Orchestra harpist.

In 1957 an altogether different musician came calling and purchased the Graceland mansion and estate to call his own. Presley was 22 and hot off his first year of superstardom. He was in the process of filming his second movie, "Loving You," and his star wasn't so much on the rise but going supernova. Together with his parents, Vernon and Gladys, the Presleys moved into the 10,000-square-foot home. The land which had belonged to the Toofs for generations would now become part of rock n' roll folklore.

Graceland was not named by Elvis

When you think of Graceland, it's easy to imagine it could only have been named by Elvis Presley. It sounds like the sort of grand gesture that was the King's calling card. However, you'd be wrong! Although its connotations of spirituality and sentiment have rock n' roll written all over it, Graceland was named by its previous inhabitant, Ruth Brown Moore, after her aunt Grace Toof (via The Outsider). Grace inherited the land after the death of her father, S.C. Toof. Upon Grace's death, the estate passed to her sister, who eventually bequeathed it to her daughter Ruth (via Find a Grave).

SAH Archipedia reports that Memphis socialite Ruth and her husband, Dr. Thomas D. Moore, commissioned architects Max Furbringer and Merrill Ehrman to design the house. Furbringer was also responsible for designing Memphis' 1920 Criminal Courts and the Claridge Hotel. Graceland was built by Robert Crouch and is located 10 miles from downtown Memphis. No one involved in its creation could have ever imagined Graceland would become a world-famous attraction for tourists worldwide, but fate has a habit of dealing the most peculiar cards. Just ask the boy from Tupelo.

Presley paid less than $1 million for Graceland

In 1957 Elvis Presley purchased Graceland for $102,500, which today translates to about $924,000, as per History. It's safe to say that snapping up a 10,000-square-foot home on 13.8 acres of land for less than $1 million is a sweet deal by anyone's standards. Since 1957, Graceland has grown into a 17,552-square-foot home with 23 rooms that include eight bedrooms, eight bathrooms, and five staircases. Although the exterior was left intact, the Colonial revival stone-laid mansion with its towering white columns was tweaked to fit the requirements of "The King" in many unique ways.

Country Living reports that two months before he moved into Graceland, and with the deed in the bag, Elvis installed a special set of musically themed gates at the front entrance familiar to Presley fans everywhere. He also installed a special stained glass window directly above Graceland's front door. The window depicts red roses surrounding the letter "P." The pool he had installed in 1968 made headlines because it was not in the shape of a guitar but a kidney bean. One of the most significant changes came in 1971 when the City Council of Memphis renamed the street where Graceland sits from Highway 51 South to Elvis Presley Boulevard. But Elvis' famous "Jungle Room" with its floor and ceiling adorned with green shag carpeting and artificial waterfall is perhaps most indicative of Presley's unusual taste in decor.

Graceland's weekly grocery bill was around $500 when The King was on the throne

It's no secret that Elvis Presley liked to eat. Food, in many ways, was his Achilles heel. The lithe and hungry rock n' roller who became the portly Las Vegas entertainer in a jumpsuit was helped on his way by a steady diet of burgers, pancakes, and a lot of peanut butter and jelly. The Los Angeles Times reports that according to David Adler, author of "The Life and Cuisine of Elvis Presley," Graceland's weekly grocery bill was around $500 a week. Adler writes that there were a list of specific items to be stored in the Graceland "kitchen and house for Elvis — at all times — every day." These included a case of Pepsi, steak, hamburger buns, cans of sauerkraut, wieners, at least six cans of biscuits, brownies, banana pudding, lean bacon, mustard, ice cream, fudge cookies, brownies, and assorted fresh fruit.

According to Elvis' stepbrother Billy Stanley, "The King" preferred towels to napkins when chowing down at Graceland. Stanley explained, "He'd say, 'Bring me a beach towel,' because he'd make such a mess." Adler writes that a meal nicknamed "The Fool's Gold" was one of Presley's fave snacks. It consisted of a loaf of Italian white bread lavishly spread with butter and oven-baked. The loaf was then sliced lengthwise, hollowed out, and filled with bacon, peanut butter, and jelly. If the walls of Graceland's kitchen could talk, what tales they'd tell.

Bruce Springsteen once broke into Graceland to gain an audience with the King

Being "The Boss," Bruce Springsteen once sought an interview with "The King," but it didn't end well. According to Rolling Stone, on April 30, 1976, the 26-year-old Springsteen was in Memphis during his "Born to Run" tour when he and his fellow E-Street Band member Steve Van Zandt had a great idea. They'd pay an unannounced visit to "The King" at his Tennessee home and chew the fat. Maybe if they were lucky, Elvis would pull out some six stings, and an impromptu jam session would follow. It was 3 a.m., but that didn't deter the two rock n' rollers. After all, Presley was long rumored to keep highly irregular hours, so he'd probably welcome an early-morning social call.

When Springsteen saw the lights still burning inside the mansion, his mind was made up. He hopped the wall and made a mad dash to the front door. Yet before he could press the doorbell, Graceland's security arrived on the scene and demanded to know what the hell was going on. All wide-eyed innocence and charm, Springsteen explained he was a rocker enjoying his first flush of success and begged to be let in to receive the blessing of "The King." The security guards remained unimpressed, explaining that Elvis had already left the building, and escorted Springsteen off the property. Springsteen later recalled, "I used to wonder what I would have said if Elvis had come to the door."

Elvis' 'private place' is still forbidden to Graceland visitors

Graceland may be one of the most visited and well-known places on earth, but there is still one room in Elvis' former home that is strictly off-limits. No ticket will gain you entry, and no tour guide will take you there. Nevertheless, it exists and houses Presley's most prized possessions, including jumpsuits, sunglasses, and photographs. According to Classic Country Music, these possessions cannot even be handled unless special gloves are worn. The closest the public got to the room was during a 2006 episode of "The Oprah Winfrey Show," where viewers were allowed an exclusive peek inside by Lisa Marie Presley.

A sign on the doors reads, "employees only," and Oprah's camera crew had to turn off their equipment until they were inside the room, which Winfrey described as "earthquake-proof, fireproof, and tornado-proof." Lisa Marie explained how she found it comforting to have a secret space to visit and feel closer to the presence of her late father. She explained, "It's very comforting that I can come. Nobody actually knows that this is here. I know I can come at any time and rummage through the boxes and grab stuff. It's quite comforting. The whole thing, even the house is like a little time capsule of the past and nothing has ever changed."

Elvis allegedly wanted to turn Graceland into a zoo

When Elvis Presley was alive, he didn't just want Graceland to be a home where he could shut out the intrusive eyes of a watching world. He also had the notion of turning it into an all-singing and all-dancing zoo. According to Far Out Magazine, Presley reportedly purchased his first animal for the zoo in 1956. It wasn't a tiger called Lewis or an elephant named Cash, but a monkey named Jayhew. This was followed shortly after by a chimpanzee christened Scatter. Presley's chimp was rumored to have a rep as something of a trouble-maker. He would allegedly dress up in human clothes, drink whiskey, wreck dressing rooms, and pull up the skirts of unsuspecting ladies.

Graceland.com reports that as an animal lover, Presley had many pets during his lifetime; in that sense, Graceland was a zoo of sorts. He kept donkeys in the swimming pool before it was filled with water, owned a turkey named Bowtie, raised hogs, and kept a number of horses. He also owned various dog breeds from Great Danes to a Pomeranian. Elvis also kept a mynah bird that would, to Presley's amusement, constantly chirp, "Elvis is asleep," "Elvis isn't available," and "Elvis isn't here." For a time Elvis enjoyed the company of a few peacocks, but after ruining the job on his cars by repeatedly scratching at their reflections, they were donated to the Memphis Zoo.

There are two planes on display at Graceland

Elvis Presley was a big fan of flying. He owned three planes during his lifetime and dreamed of owning an aircraft fleet. Aerotime Hub reports that The King purchased his first plane in 1975 and named it in honor of his daughter, Lisa Marie. He spent a small fortune and six months upgrading it to his specific tastes (via Graceland Blog). Presley nicknamed his private jet the "Flying Graceland," and its primary function was flying the singer to concert dates across the United States. Its interior was lavishly decorated, and the plane's tail was painted in the colors of the stars and stripes and incorporated Presley's famous "Taking Care of Business" acronym.

The plane saw little flight time in the wake of Presley's death and was eventually sold by Presley's estate. Yet, in 1984, an agreement was reached to display the plane at Graceland. It was later purchased by Presley's family, restored to its former glory, and remains a huge tourist attraction. Although he considered the Lisa Marie "the pride of Elvis Presley Airways," the King purchased another plane in 1975, which cost three times as much. He dubbed it "The Hound Dog II." Aside from adding yellow, green, and blue seats, Presley did little work on "The Hound Dog II." The plane can also be found permanently grounded at Graceland in honor of its former owner, who now sits with the rest of the stars in the heavens.

Graceland has a billiards room

Deep in the bowels of Graceland is perhaps the most eclectic room you can ever hold a cue and shout "rack 'em up" in. Threads Magazine reports that the basement billiard room is unusual in that its walls and ceilings are covered in over 300 yards of elaborately designed and pleated fabric. Presley wanted something different from the smoke-filled, dimly-lit, and sparsely adorned halls that most people associated with playing billiards during the 1970s. The King first purchased a pool table and put it in Graceland's basement in 1960 for him and his friends to enjoy a little eight-ball on. However, 14 years later, Presley decided to give the room an elaborate makeover after stumbling across a picture of a billiards room from the 18th century.

With interior designer Bill Eubanks on board, the fabric was purchased, and over 10 days, three workers were charged with cutting, pleating, and hanging it. The finished effect was not subtle, but neither were the custom-made billiard lamps or the Louis XV-themed chairs. Kevin Kern, director of public relations for Elvis Presley Enterprises, told Memphis Magazine, "It's an iconic room. It gets the 'wow' from first-time visitors because of its style and grandeur. Graceland's a living time capsule, but the billiard room is out-of-this-world." Kern added, "Elvis never lost a game of pool on that table. Everyone knew Elvis had to win."

Elvis used the Jungle Room as a recording studio

Although the cascading waterfall, green grass shag carpet, wooden walls, rainbow lighting, and plastic foliage all conspired to give Graceland's Jungle Room its name, Presley always referred to his iconic and kitsch lair as "The Den." Atlas Obscura reports that it was first given the Jungle Room nickname when Graceland threw open its doors for public tours in 1982. Despite being a treasured retreat for Elvis and his family because it reminded him of Hawaii, its most important claim to fame is that it doubled as a recording studio where The King made his final recordings.

According to Rolling Stone, in a series of nights throughout 1976, Presley would use the makeshift studio to record 16 tracks that would be released on 1976's "Elvis Presley Boulevard, Memphis, Tennessee," and 1977's "Moody Blue." As a notorious night owl, Presley didn't usually begin recording sessions until after midnight, and he was in his element with all the musicians and singers packed in tight in the room. Drummer Ronnie Tutt explained that Presley thrived on recording in close quarters with everyone else because he "fed off of the emotion and the dynamics that you can get when communicating as musicians and artists."

Elvis liked to watch three TVs at once when chilling in Graceland

Elvis was very much a product of popular culture and also an individual who played an integral role in defining and shaping it. Naturally, the song and dance man was also a big fan of TV. The official Elvis Instagram account reports that Presley had 14 televisions situated throughout Graceland during his tenure there. He loved to kick back and watch football and popular TV shows like "The Untouchables," "The Tonight Show," and "The Match Game." Elvis' love of the small screen was so great he had them embedded in the bedroom ceiling and had three television sets mounted next to one another on the wall in his TV room so that he could watch multiple networks at once.

The idea of having three TVs positioned side-by-side at Graceland was influenced by President Lyndon B Johnson, who had the same set-up in the White House. Yet Elvis had a unique method of turning them off. According to his cousin Billy Smith, Elvis would often shoot the TVs if something had upset him. The Memphis Mafia member explained in an interview, "It might be something he saw on TV, or it might have been something that bothered him. I mean, he could have been mad at somebody or something that happened, and he would just ... take it out on ... and he shot several TVs now."

Only the White House attracts more visitors than Graceland

Graceland isn't just a home where an American "King" once lived; it's a national institution and an almost mythical landmark that attracts visitors who weren't even alive when Elvis Presley died. Such is its pulling power, Graceland has attracted more than 20 million visitors since it was opened to the public in 1982, as per Graceland.com. Elvis fans pour through its gates from every country of the world. It welcomes over 600,000 visitors annually, and it is estimated to bring $150 million annually to the city of Memphis' economy. Visitors to Graceland are a diverse bunch. They consist of all ages, backgrounds, and income levels. Only the White House attracts more visitors than Graceland (via Forbes).

Perhaps one of the most famous visitors to the White House was the previous owner of Graceland. Elvis paid a famous visit there on December 21, 1970, to meet President Richard Nixon in the Oval Office (via National Constitution Center). The meeting between the president and "The King" has been branded as the most peculiar White House summit ever and has been the subject of much debate. Presley turned up unannounced and was given an audience with Nixon. He gifted the President a gun, showed him his collection of law enforcement badges, and spoke about how anti-American he believed The Beatles had become. Nixon also agreed to give Presley a Narcotics Bureau badge before "The King" returned to his throne at Graceland.

Elvis' aunt continued to live at Graceland following his death

In 1966, Elvis' aunt Delta was made a widow. With his customary generosity, Elvis invited her to live under his roof. One of Delta's assumed responsibilities was to ensure that Lisa Marie was bathed and fed each night, as per Daily Express. Lisa Marie's cousin Danny Smith explained, "Aunt Delta had her way. She was a good person. She took good care of Lisa and took good care of us. You've got to realize we gave that woman hell! We pulled stuff on her, we hid from her. We actually tried a lot of times just to drive her crazy. Looking back, that had to be one tough job. Bless her heart, she did her best to be as sweet to us as she could."

When Elvis died unexpectedly in 1977 at the age of 42, his aunt Delta continued to live at Graceland. She also resided there after Presley's father died in 1979 and his grandmother Minnie Mae passed on in 1980. When Graceland opened its doors to the public two years later, aunt Delta remained. She was given full use of the kitchen and an adjoining bedroom when visitors frequented the house. Yet when everyone had left the building, the tour guides would give her the green light, and she would have the run of the property. This state of affairs continued until aunt Delta died in 1993.

Elvis' body was moved to Graceland after grave robbers tried to steal it

One of the most emotional aspects of any visit to Graceland for Elvis Presley fans is to come face to face with Elvis' grave in the meditation garden. Buried alongside his parents, Elvis' final resting place is a timely reminder that time and mortality catch up with us all. According to Outsider, Elvis was originally laid to rest in a 900-pound copper coffin and buried next to his mother Gladys at Forest Hill Cemetry in 1977. More than 80,000 people turned out to bid "The King" a final farewell. Yet, graverobbers attempted to steal Elvis' body from the mausoleum. Fortunately, they failed, but in a bid to deter a similar attempt, Elvis' father Vernon had his son and wife's mortal remains moved to Graceland,

Today, thousands of visitors each year pilgrimage to Graceland and pay respect to Elvis where he lived and was eventually buried. Yet, for Elvis' daughter, Lisa Marie Presley, having a family graveyard in the garden of Graceland is sometimes tough to deal with. The Daily Express reported that Lisa Marie had a hard time seeing a cemetery in the gardens where she once raced golf buggies with her dad. Lisa Marie threw more light on the subject in a verse from her 2003 track "Lights Out," which talks about where her family is buried and gone, "in the damn back lawn."

Many Presley fans believe Elvis still haunts Graceland

Although he may have sung his swan song over 40 years ago, the spirit of Elvis Presley has never loomed larger. "The King" casts a long shadow, and the voice that inspired a world to dream and cut loose grows stronger with each passing year. Although his spirit can still be found in the grooves of Presley classics such as "That's Alright Mamma," "Jailhouse Rock," or "Suspicious Minds," his lingering presence is best sought in the bricks and mortar of Graceland. His personality is stamped all over the house he once lived in like an autograph written into architecture. There are even some Presley fans who believe the ghost of Elvis still haunts Graceland.

According to Outsider, several visitors to Graceland remain convinced they have seen the spirit of Elvis. One claims they saw him lingering near his collection of jumpsuits. Another believes they spotted his reflection on a glass surface in the meditation garden. It's easy to be cynical, but in the house where Presley lived could some residual energy from "The King's" larger-than-life personality live on? His ex-wife Priscilla certainly thinks so. In a 2015 interview with The Guardian, she explained, "When I go to Graceland, my gosh, I can walk in that door and see him walking down the stairs. I can hear laughter, I can hear the music playing in the music room. It's a very surreal feeling. But it's not scary, it's beautiful."